Colour psychology: Which colour turns you off?

Posted in Branding, colour, colour - psychology, colour and branding, colour education, colour training, colour-psychology, Graphic design, graphic design colour, Interior design on August 28th, 2012 by Bernay

A new advertising campaign and an item of research I came across recently highlighted how colour can be used to attract customers – but also if necessary repel them!

An advisory team of academic and commercial market researchers were asked to work on a rather unusual project for the Australian Government. They were tasked with designing cigarette packaging which would effectively minimise the products’ attractiveness to the customer, thereby reducing demand.

Research conducted with 1000 regular smokers  determined that a ”drab dark brown” colour was the least appealing of all. The colour chosen was Pantone 448c. Described as “dirty” or “reminiscent of tar” the panel had nothing positive to say about the colour. The new packaging design is due to be on the shelves for December and will carry large graphic health warnings and also the brand manufacturers’ names but written in a small generic font. I will be interested to find out how effective this controversial campaign will be!

Another colour that I find creates strong opinion is yellow. In the current Dulux advertising campaign a vibrant yellow colour is painted on to the bedroom walls of a son clearly outstaying his welcome with his parents. The idea is that having woken up to such a strong and perhaps undesirable colour, the son leaves home. Dulux say -“make your home yours again, re-stamp your personality with Dulux and remind your guests they’re only visiting”!

Yellow can certainly stimulate the emotions and certain types of yellow can create a feeling of anxiety, so indeed not perhaps the best colour to induce feelings of calm and relaxation in a bedroom. But it does have its postive qualities too!

More than 50% of the decision to purchase a product is based on colour.* Research from the CCICOLOUR Institute shows that up to 90% of our ‘subconscious’ assessment of anything is based on colour alone. Therefore colour is a powerful and essential ‘tool’ for any brand or product. Both the Australian Governement project and the Dulux campaign draw our attention to the way in which colour communicates, and has the ability to affect choice and behaviour  negatively (albeit to create a desired effect). But if you want to be attracting customers to your product or brand, which colours will you choose?

(*Research by Secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo 2004)

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Colour psychology: Going for Gold

Posted in Branding, colour, colour - psychology, colour education, colour training, colour-psychology, Gold, Graphic design, Interior design on August 1st, 2012 by Bernay

In the recent fascinating BBC4 programme ‘A History of Art in 3 Colours’, Dr James Fox told us the story of the history of gold as used in art. Revered by ancient cultures who equated gold with the sun and magical powers, it represented eternity. With the development of Christianity gold became equated with the ‘radiance of God’ and the divine light, and all that society holds precious or sacred. For artists such as Gustav Klimt it represented love. Kings, Queens and leaders throughout history have sought to acquire and amass gold so that it has come to be more associated with power, wealth and status.

Gold = wealth, power & status?

Gold communicates that something is precious or valuable, whilst radiating the positive and optimistic qualities of yellow. Gold medals currently sought after by Olympic athletes represent attainment. In some cultures gold is associated with wisdom and experience, perhaps apt for that rare, sought after, hard won aspect in us all.







Gustav Klimt ‘The Kiss’

Similarly with print or electronic design, the careful use of gold can emphasise the precious or exceptional qualities of a product or service. Beware of over using it however, as we only have to look back to the ‘bling’ culture of the 90s to see how judicious use of gold in design came to represent all that seemed tacky and over- exaggerated!

Exceptional wealth







Other articles you might like:

‘Brit branding’ – is red, white and blue good for you?

History in colour – 1980s and 1990s trends

Jubilee inspired colour


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Colour psychology: ‘Brit branding’ – is red, white and blue good for you?

Posted in Blue, Branding, colour, colour - psychology, colour education, colour training, colour-psychology, Graphic design, Interior design, Red, white on July 18th, 2012 by Bernay

Just opened at Gatwick, Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant and food concept combines Jamie’s Italian, bakery and a Union Jacks bar with a new food-to-go brand inspired by ‘the joy of flying.’ (The brands’ red and blue colours also neatly associate with what could be described as Britain’s national airline – British Airways!).

Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food-to-go’

Now of course this is THE year for ‘Brit branding’, and so many products from food to clothing and home wares seem to be wrapped in the red, white and blue of the national flag but what do these colours really represent to us? Are they the most appropriate colours to communicate how special and different any product is and appeal to its target market?

The use of colour is an opportunity to communicate the values of the brand. Red and blue are not usually the first colours you would think of to associate with food. The ‘male’ properties of red, and conservative but trustworthy elements of blue in this particular palette combine to give a slightly more traditional look to the design.

I like that the brown packaging style and design seems to marry both the rustic look of Jamie’s Italian with the quirkiness of the Union Jacks restaurant themes. ‘Rustic’ and ‘quirky’ are qualities we more often associate with a palette of muted, off-beat, yellow based colours which being more ‘earthy’ tend to link more in our minds with food. A slightly more orange/red (uncoated) colour such as Pantone 173 would put a little more emphasis on ‘enjoyment’ and our feelings of feeling comfortable or satiated. Adding a little more warmth to the blue with the addition of a little yellow takes it to something like Pantone 7470 which will also sit a little more comfortably with this palette, moving it a little closer to the product proposition (food) and maintaining integrity of both the product and the brand. The colours still retain close enough links to traditional Brit branding and look great with the rustic look of the brown packaging material too.

Pantone 7470

Pantone 173







Other articles you may also like:

3 quick tips for using colour in branding

Going green – McDonald’s?

Red and the Virgin empire



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Going Green- McDonald’s?

Posted in Branding, colour, colour - psychology, colour and branding, colour education, colour training, colour-psychology, Graphic design, graphic design colour, Interior design on May 21st, 2012 by Bernay

Catching sight of some of the TV advertising and media for McDonald’s recently, I am fascinated by the latest strategy of the brand to place itself in the market as a more wholesome option for ‘fast food’. A sponsor for this year’s Olympic Games, McDonald’s aims to promote balanced options for its ‘Happy Meals’, including fruit, vegetable and dairy choices.

The last few years has seen McDonald’s image suffer as a result of unfavourable publicity and claims that alerted the public to its food being a leading cause of obesity. McDonald’s has since been working to rebrand itself as more health conscious by offering more healthy food options.

The two colours we associate with the global brand are red and yellow.  The combination of red (energy, speed, activity) and yellow (emotions, confidence) directly communicates to us that in McDonald’s restaurants we can be instantly satiated; get, eat and go. So far, so good.

Except…that it might not have escaped your notice but McDonald’s have also been busy updating their restaurants and have been changing the familiar red shop fronts to a very dark green. Presumably the thinking behind McDonald’s decision to get (heavy handed) with the green in their restaurant design is to influence our perception of the restaurant as offering wholesome food?

We associate particular variations of green with balance and health. However, my thoughts are that the colour green used for the new shop fronts is far too dark and heavy, and there’s far too much of it. The colour is not attractive enough to draw us in, as like a dark green sludgy pool, it looks entirely unappealing.  The McDonald’s yellow ‘M’ logo along with ‘McDonalds’ name in white (hygiene, purity) now look entirely incongruous.

Who are McDonald’s now? What do they want to be known as – a fast food restaurant offering healthier alternatives or a wholefood restaurant? Interestingly, the food promotions page on the website show a palette of colours that work far better to convey a more wholesome message, and has fresher appeal whilst still keeping in the ‘spirit’ of the brand. Using some of these colours in the design of the shop fronts would have updated it successfully whilst still working with the red and yellow logo.  The ‘healthier’ values of the brand would have been maintained whilst keeping visual integrity.

By sacrificing the well-recognised  red and yellow shop fronts, will McDonald’s be in danger of losing the public perception of the brand as a bright, lively place to get fast food?  Instead, increasingly unrecognisable, will it eventually become overlooked on the high street altogether?

What is colour? Why does it have an effect on us and how can we use it to influence the world around us?

Exploring Colour in Your World – A one day introductory workshop in to colour psychology with Bernay Laity Saturday July 21st 2012  Click here for more information and to book

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Using Colour in Branding – Red and the Virgin Empire

Posted in Branding, colour, colour - psychology, colour and branding, colour education, colour training, Graphic design, graphic design colour on May 16th, 2012 by Bernay

Continuing the theme of ‘red’ I wanted to talk about the effect of colour in branding and design.  When we think of ‘Mega-brand’, Virgin, the colour we will associate with any of its products, is red. But how do we perceive this colour in relation to the brand – does red accurately convey the values and qualities of the Virgin ‘empire’, the third most recognised brand in the UK?

The Virgin Brand

Diverse and independent, Virgin’s businesses are licensed and branded under the Virgin group banner. The customer franchise is strong and applied to a vast range of businesses across sectors including music, finance, leisure, travel, communication and cosmetics.

Customer service oriented and fun, the Virgin ethos believes in delivering quality, innovative and value products whilst being authentic. The company values are listed as such:

  • Fun – enjoyment and humour
  • Value for money – simple not cheap
  • Quality – attention to detail, not expensive for the sake of it
  • Innovation – challenging convention, but not for the sake of being different
  • Competetive challenge – responding to consumer needs, not being irrelevant
  • Brilliant customer service – delivered by empowered, professional people

Colour cohesion is important in brand design to communicate authenticity. Research in to the relationship between marketing and colour has found that colour increases brand recognition by up to 80%. Taking a look at some of the logos for different Virgin branded products and services, it’s apparent that as much diversity exists in the colours of the different brands as in the Virgin group itself. Criticism exists that Virgin’s multi brands don’t make a comfortable fit visually or culturally. Are we becoming confused as to who Virgin are anymore?

Because overall the ‘business personality’ of Virgin would appear youth-orientated, fun, confident and with its roots based in music, communication and travel; I would be looking at hues from a light, clean, fresh palette of yellow based colours to mirror these qualities (spring).  I would choose different hues within this group to express the individual qualities of the brand products maintaining both visual and brand integrity.

While the colour red fits the bill for expressing any qualities in branding relating to action, courage, movement and energy;  the qualities of fun and value for money are best represented by the colour orange, a hue combining red and yellow linking physical colour red’s action with yellow’s confidence. Orange relates to our feelings of comfort and enjoyment. There seems to be confusion in what the Virgin red is? (Slightly orangeish Pantone Warm Red C would work best).

‘Quality’ is best represented by the colour purple, and ‘innovation’  best represented by turquoise blues. Some gravitas is required within these brands, particularly in Virgin’s finance venture – Virgin Money. We want to trust that this fun, forward thinking brand can be trusted with our money, so slightly stronger (spring) blues ought to be considered to communicate trust and efficiency!

Learn more about how colour affects branding and our daily lives in our one-day workshop – click ‘Exploring Colour in Your World’ Satuday July 21st 2012

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